Tuesday Reads: A Mixed Bag of News

Good Afternoon!!

I have a mixed bag of articles for you today. There doesn’t seem to be a great overarching story in the news, although there is quite a bit happening.

Right now the Supreme Court is hearing challenges to President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan.

The New York Times has a live blog if you’re interested in following the arguments: Live Updates: Supreme Court Hears Challenges to Student Loan Forgiveness.

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments Tuesday over the legality of one of the most ambitious and expensive executive actions in the nation’s history: the Biden administration’s plan to wipe out more than $400 billion in student debt because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The justices began hearing arguments on Tuesday morning in two cases. Each will receive at least one hour of arguments but is expected to run well over that. The court does not allow cameras, but audio of the arguments is being streamed live.

  • Both cases grapple with two questions. One is whether the challengers have legal standing to bring their lawsuits. The other is whether the program exceeds the authority that Congress granted to the Education Department and whether it followed legally required procedures in devising the plan. Read about how arguments typically unfold.

  • The Trump administration initially paused student loan repayments in March 2020 because of the pandemic. The Biden administration kept the pause until August 2022, then decided to forgive $10,000 in debt for individuals earning less than $125,000 per year, or $250,000 per household, and $20,000 for those who received Pell grants for low-income families. The court challenge has left millions of borrowers in limbo.

  • A central point of the case is a 2003 law, the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, which gives the secretary of education the power to “waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision” to protect borrowers affected by a war or “national emergency.”

  • Lawyers for each side will first present their point of view and then answer the justices’ questions in an unstructured format. It is expected to be several months before decisions are announced.

There’s lots of discussion on Twitter too.

There’s quite a bit of news coming out of the Dominion lawsuit against Fox News.

The New York Times reports:

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the conservative media empire that owns Fox News, acknowledged in a deposition that several hosts for his networks promoted the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald J. Trump, and that he could have stopped them but didn’t, court documents released on Monday showed.

“They endorsed,” Mr. Murdoch said under oath in response to direct questions about the Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo, according to a legal filing by Dominion Voting Systems. “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight,” he added, while also disclosing that he was always dubious of Mr. Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.

Asked whether he doubted Mr. Trump, Mr. Murdoch responded: “Yes. I mean, we thought everything was on the up-and-up.” At the same time, he rejected the accusation that Fox News as a whole had endorsed the stolen election narrative. “Not Fox,” he said. “No. Not Fox.”

Mr. Murdoch’s remarks, which he made last month as part of Dominion’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox, added to the evidence that Dominion has accumulated as it tries to prove its central allegation: The people running the country’s most popular news network knew Mr. Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election were false but broadcast them anyway in a reckless pursuit of ratings and profit.

Proof to that effect would help Dominion clear the high legal bar set by the Supreme Court for defamation cases. To prevail, Dominion must show not only that Fox broadcast false information, but that it did so knowingly. A judge in Delaware state court has scheduled a monthlong trial beginning in April.

The new documents and a similar batch released this month provide a dramatic account from inside the network, depicting a frantic scramble as Fox tried to woo back its large conservative audience after ratings collapsed in the wake of Mr. Trump’s loss. Fox had been the first network to call Arizona for Joseph R. Biden on election night — essentially declaring him the next president. When Mr. Trump refused to concede and started attacking Fox as disloyal and dishonest, viewers began to change the channel.

From Politico:

Fox News executive chair Rupert Murdoch admitted in a deposition that some Fox News hosts endorsed President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, potentially undermining the network’s assertion that it was neutrally relaying dubious arguments from Trump and his allies, a court filing released Monday said.

The admission from Murdoch came in a libel suit voting equipment maker that Dominion Voting Systems is pressing against the TV network over its coverage of the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.

However, the ongoing lawsuit is also opening a unique window into Fox’s internal deliberations, particularly in the tense period after Election Day, as the network struggled to hang on to a viewer base heavily invested in Trump’s claims of victory even as senior Fox officials were privately convinced Trump’s claims were bogus and he had lost.

Dominion’s court filing released Monday, a response to Fox’s own recent submission in the case, portrays senior executives at the network as widely in agreement that their network shouldn’t help Trump spread the false narrative. Yet, they repeatedly wrestled with how firmly to disavow it without risking their Trump-friendly audience.

“Some of our commentators were endorsing it,” Murdoch conceded during his sworn deposition, appearing to insist that Fox hosts did not speak for the network. “Yes. They endorsed,” he said.

“It is fair to say you seriously doubted any claim of massive election fraud?” a Dominion lawyer asked the broadcasting mogul.

“Oh, yes,” Murdoch replied.

“And you seriously doubted it from the very beginning?” the attorney asked.

Read more details at Politico.

And more from The Washington Post:

From the article:

But Dominion’s filing shows Murdoch intimately involved in steering the network’s programming during the chaotic weeks after Election Day, as he tried to “straddle the issue” of election fraud in a way that would not anger viewers or the president.

In a particularly explosive part of the filing, Dominion alleges that Murdoch provided Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner with confidential network information about Joe Biden’s campaign ads as well as debate strategy, citing an exhibit that remains under seal.

More details on this from Raw Story: Fox could be on the hook for campaign finance violations after new court docs drop: former FBI agent.

Among the details revealed is that News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch gave election assistance to Donald Trump’s campaign, but it wasn’t just about strategy. Fox got their hands on ads from Joe Biden’s campaign that hadn’t been released publicly. Campaigns submit their ads for commercial buys and typically release the videos publicly after they’re playing on the air. After getting the videos, Fox handed the ads over to the Trump campaign.

Former FBI agent Asha Rangappa questioned whether it could be considered an in-kind donation to a political campaign from a corporation directly to a candidate.

“An in-kind contribution is a non-monetary contribution. Goods or services offered free or at less than the usual charge result in an in-kind contribution,” the Federal Election Commission says on its website. “Similarly, when a person or entity pays for services on the committee’s behalf, the payment is an in-kind contribution. An expenditure made by any person or entity in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate’s campaign is also considered an in-kind contribution to the candidate.”

Ron DeSantis is also getting plenty of attention in the press as he looks more and more like a contender in 2024.

From the NYT:

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida will make his debut appearances in three early presidential primary states in the next several weeks, according to two people briefed on his plans, selling his performance in his own state as he lays the groundwork for an expected presidential campaign.

Mr. DeSantis is tentatively expected to appear in Iowa during the first half of March, making stops in Davenport and Des Moines, according to the people briefed on his schedule who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the plans publicly. Shortly after, he is expected to appear in Nevada, an early primary state, followed a few weeks later by an expected trip to Manchester, New Hampshire….

Hitting the traditional early primary states as he discusses his new book, “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival,” allows Mr. DeSantis to unofficially test the waters and introduce himself nationally at a time when he’s seen as preparing for a presidential campaign.

Mr. DeSantis is also expected at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Sunday, a place that has often been a launching pad for presidential candidacies. And there are stops expected in a handful of other states, including New York.

A chunk of the Republican electorate, some conservative thinkers and a number of major donors have already pinned their hopes on Mr. DeSantis as the future of the party at a time when they are hoping to move on from former President Donald J. Trump. They have praised his aggressive style and use of the powers of his office, and his willingness to dive into battles over cultural issues that have come to define the modern Republican Party.

From New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg:

Michelle Goldberg: Florida Could Start Looking a Lot Like Hungary.

In 2017, the government of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban passed a law intended to drive Central European University, a prestigious school founded by a Hungarian refugee, George Soros, out of the country. At the time, this was shocking; as many as 80,000 protesters rallied in Budapest and intellectuals worldwide rushed to declare their solidarity with the demonstrators. “The fate of the university was a test of whether liberalism had the tactical savvy and emotional fortitude to beat back its new ideological foe,” wrote Franklin Foer in The Atlantic.

Liberalism, sadly, did not: The university was forced to move to Vienna, part of Orban’s lamentably successful campaign to dismantle Hungary’s liberal democracy.

That campaign has included ever-greater ideological control over education, most intensely in grade school, but also in colleges and universities. Following a landslide 2018 re-election victory that Orban saw as a “mandate to build a new era,” his government banned public funding for gender studies courses. “The Hungarian government is of the clear view that people are born either men or women,” said his chief of staff. In 2021, Orban extended political command over Hungarian universities by putting some schools under the authority of “public trusts” full of regime allies.

Many on the American right admire the way Orban uses the power of the state against cultural liberalism, but few are imitating him as faithfully as the Florida governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. Last week, one of DeSantis’s legislative allies filed House Bill 999, which would, as The Tampa Bay Times reported, turn many of DeSantis’s “wide-ranging ideas on higher education into law.” Even by DeSantis’s standards, it is a shocking piece of legislation that takes a sledgehammer to academic freedom. Jeremy Young, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America, described it as “almost an apocalyptic bill for higher education,” one that is “orders of magnitude worse than anything we’ve seen, either in the recent or the distant past.”

Echoing Orban, House Bill 999 bars Florida’s public colleges and universities from offering gender studies majors or minors, as well as majors or minors in critical race theory or “intersectionality,” or in any subject that “engenders beliefs” in those concepts. The bill prohibits the promotion or support of any campus activities that “espouse diversity, equity and inclusion or critical race theory rhetoric.” This goes far beyond simply ending D.E.I. programming, and could make many campus speakers, as well as student organizations like Black student unions, verboten.

There’s much more at the link. I hope you’ll read it if you haven’t already. Also see Don Moynihan at his Can We Still Govern Substack: The latest DeSantis attack on education is part of a broader attack on professional competence.

A minor addition to Donald Trump’s growing legal troubles was accidentally revealed by the FEC.

Roger Sollenberger writes:

When the Federal Elections Commission rejected a recent Freedom of Information Act request related to Donald Trump’s “recount” expenses after the 2020 election, the campaign watchdog had a conspicuous reason for turning down the petition: Trump’s political spending after he left the White House is currently the subject of an FEC enforcement matter.

According to agency records obtained by The Daily Beast, the FEC rejected a FOIA request—filed Dec. 20 by a nonpartisan research group that shared the documents on condition of anonymity—because those records may involve an active inquiry.

“To the extent that the records you requested concern an ongoing FEC enforcement matter, we can neither confirm nor deny that any such records exist,” the agency’s FOIA attorney wrote in the letter, which was shared with The Daily Beast.

The request asked the agency for documents and communications related to a major Trump vendor that has received millions in campaign “recount” funds for seemingly unrelated services—including document production for subpoenas from the congressional COVID subcommittee.

Dan Weiner, director of elections and government at the Brennan Center and a former attorney with the FEC, told The Daily Beast that while the response itself isn’t indicative of any stage of inquiry—“readers shouldn’t get excited”—the particular issue is serious.

“The FEC could be indicating one of many different scenarios,” Weiner said, explaining that the agency opens enforcement matters under a range of prompts, from publicly generated complaints to federal referrals to internal decisions. More often than not, enforcement matters resolve in a whimper—a conspicuously glaring pattern when it comes to Trump.

I’m going to end there. I’ll see you in the comment thread.


Monday Reads: Court Watch

Good afternoon, Dak is dealing with her kitty today so…you have to deal with a post from me today.

News out of Georgia…according to Joyce Vance, folks are “Officially on Georgia watch” :

Professor of Law Joyce Vance says, “We’re officially on Georgia-watch,” now that a new grand jury has been constituted and could hand down indictments at any time in that state’s investigation into Donald Trump and his allies and their alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

Vance, the well-known MSNBC legal contributor, podcaster, and former U.S. Attorney says in her Substack newsletter, “it’s entirely possible that this could be the week to expect the world to turn upside down.”

It has become a cruel joke, like teasing a dog with a ball. Will tRump be indicted…will this jerk finally throw the damn ball. Personally I am torn, my dad says he is living to see tRump go to prison. I think Daddy will be around for a long time and it makes me happy.

Today on SCOTUS watch:

Ever since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, Republicans and corporate lobbyists have sought to destroy it. Now the Supreme Court will take up a case that could do just that.

The case of CFPB v. Community Financial Services Association, et al., comes out of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where a three-judge panel of far-right Trump-appointed judges ruled in October that the regulator’s funding mechanism is unconstitutional and the agency, and its regulations, should therefore be entirely voided. The Supreme Court took up an appeal by the Biden administration on Monday to judge whether to overrule this extreme decision.

The article gives an explanation of the case and what the outcome could be if the tRump court decides to:

If the court were to side with the 5th Circuit’s outlandish argument and overturn its existing precedent, it could imperil important parts of the federal government. Yet again, the conservative Supreme Court will have to determine how far it wants to go along with the Trumpiest court in the nation. At least two conservative justices would need to disagree to void the 5th Circuit’s decision.

I would give the HuffPo link a look to understand the nuance of the case. It is a bit complicated.

Meanwhile, Fox“News” is keeping their reporters from reporting on the Dominion suit:

Fox News anchor Howard Kurtz said Sunday that the conservative network barred him from covering the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed against the company by Dominion Voting Systems.

“Some of you have been asking why I’m not covering the Dominion Voting Machines lawsuit against Fox involving the unproven claims of election fraud in 2020, and it’s absolutely a fair question,” Kurtz said during his “MediaBuzz” weekly news segment. “I believe I should be covering it. It’s a major media story, given my role here at Fox.”

“But the company has decided that as part of the organization being sued, I can’t talk about it or write about it, at least for now,” he added. “I strongly disagree with that decision, but as an employee, I have to abide by it. If that changes, I’ll let you know.”

Nothing new.

Now a few things you may find interesting:

It is heading your way BB…

That’s no dildo!

Fiber people are the best.

Please post some things you are reading about in the comments! This is an open thread.


Sunday Cartoons: Cornholia…

Morning…here is a good look at what my little part of North Georgia is like…we live just a few blocks from this park.

Anyway…now the cartoons via Cagle:

This is an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Lucie Bilodeau, Quiet Day

Quiet Day, by Lucie Bilodeau

Happy Caturday!!

The weather has been crazy this year. The Midwest has been getting plenty of snow, but here in Massachusetts we’ve seen almost no snow and temperatures mostly above normal–in the 40s and 50s. We’ve also had a couple of freezing cold snaps, including this weekend. Last night it got down into the single numbers with wind chills below zero. The rest of the week we are again expecting above normal temperatures. Dakinikat has been getting more cold weather than usual in New Orleans, with occasional periods of very warm weather. And now Southern California is getting blizzard warnings–and not in the mountains.

The Washington Post: Low-elevation snow, blizzard conditions in California amid season’s coldest storm.

It’s been a week of howling wind and bitter cold in California as winter storms have dropped into the region from the far north. The cold air set the stage for snow at unusually low elevations late in the week. Now, it is combining with an atmospheric river to bring blizzard conditions and possibly unprecedented snowfall to Southern California.

The latest powerful storm, steered by a low-pressure system rotating off the California coast, is taking direct aim at the coastal mountain ranges that run between Santa Barbara and San Diego counties. An atmospheric river could linger over the region for more than 24 hours into Saturday, piling up feet of mountain snow while dousing lower elevations with flooding rains.

The region rarely experiences snow of this magnitude, which is more typical of the Sierra Nevada, according to Alex Tardy, the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego.

“This is not Lake Tahoe, this is not Mammoth [Lakes], and we’re not talking about a month of snow,” he said. “We’re talking about a three-day storm putting 5 to 6 feet at a location like Big Bear.”

Tardy noted that for Big Bear Lake, a popular weekend ski destination about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, it is possible “that these three- to four-day totals will exceed anything that we’ve recorded before.” He also called the flood risk for urban and rural areas “significant,” given how much rain was expected to fall in a short period.

By late Friday night, the Weather Service in Los Angeles was warning of “life threatening flash flooding of creeks and streams, burn scars, urban areas, highways, streets and underpasses.”

Up to 7 inches of rain had fallen in some parts of Los Angeles County, with more on the way.

An extremely rare blizzard warning is in effect until 4 p.m. Saturday for the mountains of Ventura, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

Last night some big news broke about the DOJ’s efforts to get access to Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry’s phone in the January 6 investigation. The phone was seized by the FBI last summer, but Perry has claimed the contents are protected by the “speech and debate clause.” It’s the same argument that Mike Pence is using to fight a grand jury subpoena and that Lindsey Graham tried and failed with in his fight to avoid testifying to the Georgia special grand jury. Now the judge in Perry’s case has also rejected the argument.

The Washington Post: Fight over Rep. Perry’s phone has prevented review of 2,200 documents in Jan. 6 probe.

A secret legal fight over the cellphone of Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) has prevented the Justice Department for more than six months from reviewing more than 2,200 documents in the criminal investigation of former president Donald Trump and supporters’ efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, a federal judge disclosed Friday evening.

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court in D.C. released a number of previously sealed opinions after finding that the “powerful public interest”outweighed the need for secrecy in the constitutional battle over Perry’s claims and the historic investigation.

Dee Nickerson

By Dee Nickerson

The Pennsylvania Republican has asserted that 2,219 documents contained on his phone are shielded by the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, which grants members of Congress immunity from criminal investigation in their official capacities. But in a ruling in December, Howell rejected that claim for more than 90 percent of the records, ordering Perry to turn over 2,055 text messages, emails and attachments after concluding that they were only incidentally related to his status as a lawmaker, and not central to that status and constitutionally protected as part of his lawmaking.

“What is plain is that the Clause does not shield Rep. Perry’s random musings with private individuals touting an expertise in cybersecurity or political discussions with attorneys from a presidential campaign, or with state legislators concerning hearings before them about possible local election fraud or actions they could take to challenge election results in Pennsylvania,” Howell wrote.

The scope and nature of the Perry fight had been secret, because they involve an FBI search warrant used to seize Perry’s phone on Aug. 9. But Howell said the Justice Department agreed to unseal details Friday because a federal appeals court held fast-tracked public arguments this week after staying Howell’s order and approved the release of her key opinions to certain members of Congress and the House general counsel’s office. That office has taken Perry’s side. Perry’s lawyers objected to the unsealing, but Howell said redactions protected his interests, noting that the government’s specific allegations about why Perry’s phone might contain evidence of a crime remain under seal.

Perry is a key figure who sought to help Trump replace the attorney general after the 2020 election with former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and get the Justice Department to reverse its finding that Joe Biden had been elected fairly, according to the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack by Trump supporters on the U.S. Capitol.

More details from Politico: Judge rejected Perry’s bid to shield thousands of emails from Jan. 6 investigators.

Prosecutors homed in on Perry last year, seeking his contacts with top figures connected to Trump, including Clark and attorney John Eastman, an architect of Trump’s last-ditch bid to remain in power despite losing reelection. And in August, Perry’s phone was seized by FBI agents while he was traveling with family.

Thus far, however, investigators have not had access to any of the records because, last month, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to stay Howell’s ruling. On Thursday, those judges heard both public and private arguments about the dispute. The stay remains in place as the appeals court considers whether to leave Howell’s ruling in place, set it aside or modify it in some way.

cats-relaxing-in-the-grounds-at-napsbury-louis-wain

Cats Relaxing in the Grounds at Napsbury, by Louis Wain

The judges — Karen Henderson, Gregory Katsas and Neomi Rao — appeared skeptical of the Justice Department’s position and the breadth of Howell’s ruling, although they discussed her stance only in broad strokes and the details of her opinions remained under seal until Friday.

But the appeals panel’s ultimate leanings remained unclear at the conclusion of the public argument session Thursday. The appeals judges seemed most concerned by Howell’s determination that Perry’s outreach about Jan. 6 was not protected by the speech or debate clause because he was not acting with formal House approval.

That determination was a centerpiece of Howell’s ruling, which she said was rooted in longstanding precedent.

“No matter the vigor with which Rep. Perry pursued his wide-ranging interest in bolstering his belief that the results of the 2020 election were somehow incorrect — even in the face of his own reelection — his informal inquiries into the legitimacy of those election results are closer to the activities described as purely personal or political,” Howell said.

Another judge in Texas is hearing a case that could threaten access to abortion pills in every state.

The Washington Post: The Texas judge who could take down the abortion pill.

ABILENE, Tex. — Matthew Kacsmaryk was a 22-year-old law student when he drove to a small city in west Texas to spend a day with a baby he would probably never see again.

He was in Abilene to support his sister, who, pregnant at 17, had fled to a faraway maternity home to avoid the scorn she feared from their Christian community. But holding his nephew in his arms — then leaving the baby with adoptive parents— also solidified Kacsmaryk’s belief that every pregnancy should be treasured, his sister recalled, even those that don’t fit neatly into a family’s future plans….

Now 45 and a federal judge, Kacsmaryk (kaz-MARE-ik) has the opportunity to impose the most far-reaching limit on abortion access since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

The judge, nominated by President Trump and confirmed in 2019, will soon rule on a lawsuit seeking to revoke U.S. government approval of mifepristone, a key abortion medication. That outcome could, at least temporarily, halt over half the legal abortions carried out across the country, including in states led by Democrats where abortion rights are protected.

While many experts have said the case relies on baseless medical claims, it is Kacsmaryk’s role as presiding judge that has the abortion rights movement bracing foranother crippling defeat.

The abortion pills lawsuit, which Kacsmaryk could rule on any day, is the latest in a long line of politically explosive cases to appear on the judge’s docket. In a practice known as “forum shopping,” conservative groups have zeroed in on the Amarillo division of the Northern District of Texas as a go-to place to challenge a wide range of Biden administration policies. Because Amarillo is a federal district with a single judge, plaintiffs know their arguments will be heard by Kacsmaryk — who, like any federal judge, is positioned to issue rulings with nationwide implications.

Appeals from Kacsmaryk’s district follow a path that has regularly yielded favorable outcomes for conservatives — reviewed first by the 5th Circuit, which upheld a strict Texas abortion ban long before Roe v. Wade was overturned, then ultimately by the conservative-controlled Supreme Court.

Read more at the WaPo.

Relaxing on the Rug, Ryan Connors

Relaxing on the Rug, Ryan Connors

Lots of legal cases in the news today, including updates on the Dominion lawsuit against Fox News.

Analysis by Oliver Darcy at CNN Business: ‘It’s a major blow’: Dominion has uncovered ‘smoking gun’ evidence in case against Fox News, legal experts say.

Fox News is in serious hot water.

That’s what several legal experts told CNN this week following Dominion Voting Systems explosive legal filing against the right-wing talk channel, revealing the network’s executives and hosts privately blasted the election fraud claims being peddled by Donald Trump’s team, despite allowing lies about the 2020 contest to be promoted on its air.

While the legal experts cautioned that they would like to see Fox News’ formal legal response to the filing, they all indicated in no uncertain terms that the evidence compiled in Dominion’s legal filing represents a serious threat to the channel.

“It’s a major blow,” attorney Floyd Abrams of Pentagon Papers fame said, adding that the “recent revelations certainly put Fox in a more precarious situation” in defending against the lawsuit on First Amendment grounds.

Rebecca Tushnet, the Frank Stanton Professor of First Amendment Law at Harvard Law School, described Dominion’s evidence as a “very strong” filing that “clearly lays out the difference between what Fox was saying publicly and what top people at Fox were privately admitting.”

A cache of behind-the-scenes messages included in the legal filing showed Fox Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch called Trump’s claims “really crazy stuff,” and the cable network’s stars — including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham — brutally mock the lies being pushed by the former president’s camp asserting that the election was rigged.

It also showed attempts to crack down on fact-checking election lies. On one occasion, Carlson demanded that Fox News White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich be fired after she fact-checked a Trump tweet pushing election fraud claims.

Tushnet said that in all of her years practicing and teaching law, she had never seen such damning evidence collected in the pre-trial phase of a defamation suit. “I don’t recall anything comparable to this,” Tushnet said. “Donald Trump seems to be very good at generating unprecedented situations.”

Read what more legal experts had to say about the case at the CNN link.

The New York Times has an interesting piece about what Fox hosts were saying on the air as opposed to behind the scenes: What Fox News Hosts Said Privately vs. Publicly About Voter Fraud.

Two days after the 2020 election, Tucker Carlson was furious.

Fox News viewers were abandoning the network for Newsmax and One America News, two conservative rivals, after Fox declared that Joseph R. Biden Jr. won Arizona, a crucial swing state.

Belinda Del Pesco

Belinda Del Pesco

In a text message with his producer, Alex Pfeiffer, Mr. Carlson appeared livid that viewers were turning against the network. The message was among those released last week as part of a lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox. Dominion, an elections technology company, has sued Fox News for defamation….

At the same time, Mr. Carlson and his broadcasting colleagues expressed grave doubts about an unfounded narrative rapidly gaining momentum among their core audience: that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by Democrats through widespread voter fraud. The belief was promoted by then-President Trump and a coalition of lawyers, lawmakers and influencers, though they produced no evidence to support their assertions.

Many hosts, producers and executives privately expressed skepticism about those claims, even as they gave them significant airtime, according to private messages revealed last week by Dominion. What they said in those messages often differed significantly from what Fox hosts said in public, though they weren’t always contradictory.

Two days after the election, Mr. Pfeiffer said that voices on the right were “reckless demagogues,” according to a text message. Mr. Carlson replied that his show was “not going to follow them.” [….]

But he did follow them. The same day, on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Mr. Carlson expressed some doubts about the voter fraud assertions before insisting that at least some of the claims were “credible.”

There’s much more at the NYT link.

One more January 6 story at CBS News: Media organizations demand Jan. 6 videos McCarthy shared with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.

A group of media organizations, including CBS News, is demanding access to a tranche of surveillance and police videos from the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol that U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy provided to Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

In a letter to congressional leadership Friday, the media companies argue the footage McCarthy allowed Carlson and Fox News to access should be made available to other media groups.

sphynx-cat-relaxing-svetlana-novikova

Sphynx Cat Relaxing, Svetlana Novikova

The letter was sent on behalf of CBS News, CNN, Politico, ProPublica ABC, Axios, Advance, Scripps, the Los Angeles Times, and Gannett.

“Without full public access to the complete historical record, there is concern that an ideologically-based narrative of an already polarizing event will take hold in the public consciousness, with destabilizing risks to the legitimacy of Congress, the Capitol Police, and the various federal investigations and prosecutions of January 6 crimes,” wrote attorney Charles Tobin.

McCarthy’s office has not responded to multiple requests for comment from CBS News about the reported release of more than 41,000 hours of police footage to Fox News.

The House speaker said in a Wednesday interview with The New York Times that he expects to make the footage more widely available after Carlson uses the material.

“I was asked in the press about these tapes, and I said they do belong to the American public. I think sunshine lets everybody make their own judgment,” McCarthy said.

In the letter to McCarthy, Tobin wrote that the media organizations agreed with his “sunshine” statement.

“Now that the CCTV videos have been released to one member of the news media – one whose program is categorized by its own network as opinion programming – they must be released to the rest of the news media as well,” Tobin wrote.

That’s all I have for you today. Please share your thought and any other stories that you’re following.


Friday Reads

Félix Vallotton, Laid down woman, sleeping, 1899, private collection.

Félix Vallotton, Lain down woman, sleeping, 1899, private collection.

Good Morning!!

I’m filling in for Dakinikat today, while she takes her cat Keely to the vet. Keely hasn’t had any problems since the seizure a few days ago, but she needs to be checked out and also get some shots. I’m curious to know what the vet thinks–I hope Dakinikat will update us later on.

The one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is getting lot of coverage today.

This is from The New York Times’ live updates: Here’s what to know on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

With messages of support and new pledges of weapons, allies rallied around Ukraine on Friday as the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion prompted shows of solidarity around the world and a mix of anxiety and resolve in Ukraine.

“We will be victorious,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told a news conference, saying that Ukraine could win the war this year as long as its allies remain united “like a fist” and continue delivering weapons.

Even as leaders in Ukraine and around the world marked the anniversary with ceremonies and speeches, the fighting continued much as it has for the past year. The war has already done untold damage: Tens of thousands have been killed on both sides, millions of Ukrainians have been made homeless, and Ukraine has sustained tens of billions of dollars worth of damage that has left cities flattened and people around the country grappling with dark and cold.

But Ukrainians have also found strength in shared sacrifice, and hope in the setbacks their country’s forces have dealt Russia on the battlefield. Ukraine has largely stopped the offensives of its much larger and better-armed neighbor and has regained swathes of captured land, aided by the United States and its European allies, which have remained united, funneling billions of dollars of weapons to Kyiv.

The war has reverberated around the globe, reshaping and strengthening alliances, and affecting everything from grain prices to energy policy. But even as Russia found itself more isolated from the West, sanctions have failed to bring the country to its knees, and much of the rest of the world has continued to provide economic or diplomatic support to Moscow.

Read more details and updates at the NYT link.

From the AP: US commits $2 billion in drones, ammunition, aid to Ukraine.

The Pentagon announced a new package of long-term security assistance for Ukraine on Friday, marking the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion with a $2 billion commitment to send more rounds of ammunition and a variety of small, high-tech drones into the fight.

The announcement comes just days after President Joe Biden made an unannounced visit to Kyiv and pledged America’s continuing commitment to Ukraine. Biden told President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his people that “Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”

John William Godward, Expectation

John William Godward, Expectation

In a statement Friday, the Pentagon said the aid includes weapons to counter Russia’s unmanned systems and several types of drones, including the upgraded Switchblade 600 Kamikaze drone, as well as electronic warfare detection equipment.

It also includes money for additional ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, artillery rounds and munitions for laser-guided rocket systems. But, in an unusual move, the Pentagon provided no details on how many rounds of any kind will be bought. Including this latest package, the U.S. has now committed more than $32 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion is a chance for all who believe in freedom “to recommit ourselves to supporting Ukraine’s brave defenders for the long haul — and to recall that the stakes of Russia’s war stretch far beyond Ukraine.”

Biden was scheduled to meet virtually Friday with other Group of Seven leaders and Zelenskyy “to continue coordinating our efforts to support Ukraine and hold Russia accountable for its war,” the White House said.

Those efforts include what the White House called “sweeping” sanctions on over 200 people and entities “to further degrade Russia’s economy and diminish its ability to wage war against Ukraine.” The Biden administration will also further restrict exports to Russia and raise tariffs on some Russian products imported to the U.S.

CNN has a story on the new sanctions: US Treasury takes ‘one of its most significant sanctions actions to date’ on anniversary of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The US Treasury Department on Friday took what it called “one of its most significant sanctions actions to date” to crack down on those aiding Moscow’s war against Ukraine, targeting Russia’s metals and mining sector, its financial institutions, its military supply chain and individuals and companies worldwide that are helping Moscow avoid existing sanctions.

These latest actions by the Treasury Department are among a series of new measures announced by the Biden administration Friday that are meant to strengthen Kyiv and deter those providing support to Moscow as the war enters its second year without signs of abating.

Friday’s sweeping actions are meant to fill in gaps in existing sanctions that have been imposed over the past year of the war and are intended to impair “key revenue generating sectors in order to further degrade Russia’s economy and diminish its ability to wage war against Ukraine,” according to a White House fact sheet.

Frederic Leighton, Flaming June

Frederic Leighton, Flaming June

The administration on Friday imposed sanctions against a total of “over 200 individuals and entities, including both Russian and third-country actors across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East that are supporting Russia’s war effort,” according to the White House fact sheet.

The latest tranche of Treasury Department sanctions target a total of 22 individuals and 83 entities, according to a Treasury Department news release, and were taken in coordination with the Group of 7 nations.

The US State Department also imposed sanctions on dozens of Russian officials and entities involved in the war and will take “steps to impose visa restrictions on 1,219 members of the Russian military, including officers, for actions that threaten or violate the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of Ukraine,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. Three Russian military officials – Artyom Igorevich Gorodilov, Aleksey Sergeyevich Bulgakov, and Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Vasilyev – will be blocked from entering the US due to their involvement “in gross violations of human rights perpetrated against Ukrainian civilians and prisoners of wars,” Blinken said.

You can also check these two longer reads about Ukraine:

Defense One: EXCLUSIVE: Seven Former NATO Supreme Allied Commanders Say U.S. ‘Must Do Everything We Can’ for a Ukrainian Victory.

Politico has an oral history of the Russian invasion, compiled from hours of interviews by Politico reporters: ‘Something Was Badly Wrong’: When Washington Realized Russia Was Actually Invading Ukraine.

There is some breaking news about the Mar-a-Lago stolen documents case. Both The Guardian and CNN are claiming exclusives.

The Guardian: Classified Trump schedules were moved to Mar-a-Lago after FBI search – sources.

Donald Trump’s lawyers found a box of White House schedules, including some that were marked classified, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in December because a junior aide to the former president had transported it from another office in Florida after the FBI completed its search of the property.

The former president does not appear to have played a direct role in the mishandling of the box, though he remains under investigation for the possible improper retention of national security documents and obstruction of justice. This previously unreported account of the retrieval was informed by two sources familiar with the matter.

Known internally as ROTUS, short for Receptionist of the United States, the junior aide initially kept the box at a converted guest bungalow at Mar-a-Lago called the “tennis cottage” after Trump left office, and she soon took it with her to a government-leased office in the Palm Beach area.

Mary Cassat, Girl in a Blue Armchair

Mary Cassatt, Girl in a Blue Armchair

The box remained at the government-leased office from where the junior aide worked through most of 2022, explaining why neither Trump’s lawyer who searched Mar-a-Lago in June for any classified-marked papers nor the FBI agents who searched the property in August found the documents.

Around the time that Trump returned to Mar-a-Lago from his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey at the end of the summer, the junior aide was told that she was being relocated to a desk in the anteroom of Trump’s own office at Mar-a-Lago that previously belonged to top aide Molly Michael.

The junior aide retrieved her work belongings – including the box – from the government-leased office and took them to her new Mar-a-Lago workspace around September. At that time, the justice department’s criminal investigation into Trump’s retention of national security documents was intensifying.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

CNN: Exclusive: How a box with classified documents ended up in Trump’s office months after FBI searched Mar-a-Lago.

The Justice Department wants to know how a box containing a handful of classified records scattered among copies of presidential schedules turned up at Mar-a-Lago late last year, well after several rounds of searches of the property by federal agents and aides to former President Donald Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.

Investigators working for special counsel Jack Smith in recent weeks have interviewed a Trump aide who copied classified materials found in the box using her phone to put them onto a laptop. After a voluntary interview with the aide, prosecutors subpoenaed the password to the laptop, which she provided, according to one of the sources.

The classified documents contained in the box were discovered in December, after the Justice Department told Trump’s legal team to conduct yet another search for documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

People familiar with the Trump legal team’s efforts to locate documents describe a confusing chain of events that delayed discovery of the box, including having its contents uploaded to the cloud, emailed to a Trump employee, and moved to an offsite location before finally ending up back at a Mar-a-Lago bridal suite that is now Trump’s office – the very place that the FBI had searched just weeks earlier….

The odyssey of the box has been a recent focus of Smith’s investigation into the mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, according to people familiar with the line of questioning from federal prosecutors. The haphazard handling of documents that ended up online, on computers and moved around to multiple locations could further complicate Trump’s case in an investigation with criminal implications.

One person who described the box’s movements and the special counsel’s inquiry into it described federal investigators as suspecting a “shell game with classified documents.” The person said Trump’s daily movements and instructions to staff are a core part of prosecutors’ questions as well.

More details at CNN.

Mike Pence is getting quite a bit of attention in the news today, and it’s not positive attention.

CBS News: Special counsel asks judge to compel Mike Pence to testify in Jan. 6 probe.

Federal prosecutors have asked the chief judge in Washington, D.C.’s federal court to compel former Vice President Mike Pence to comply with a grand jury subpoena and testify as a witness in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, three people familiar with the investigation told CBS News.

The motion to compel Pence’s testimony — filed in secret to Chief Judge Beryl Howell in recent days — came after lawyers for former President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege in response to Pence’s subpoena, the people said.

John Singer Sargent, Repose

John Singer Sargent, Repose

That assertion of executive privilege on Pence’s subpoena, the people added, is in line with how Trump’s team has responded to related subpoenas over the past year, with Trump’s attorneys often arguing that private conversations or interactions with a president should remain confidential….

Pence and his lawyers have also been preparing to invoke the Constitution’s Speech or Debate clause as a means of protecting him from the investigation. That clause protects members of Congress from being questioned about their legislative actions by other branches of the federal government.

Pence contends his unique role as both a member of the executive branch and president of the Senate — who presided over Congress’ certification of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021 — would be covered under the clause….

The motion to compel testimony filed by the special counsel’s office is the logical next step in a criminal probe, with prosecutors seeking to force a witness or third party to comply with a grand jury subpoena. Filed less than two weeks after news broke that Pence had received the subpoena, the legal document asks the court to uphold the subpoena’s legal authority and indicates Justice Department prosecutors are moving quickly in their attempt to get Pence before a grand jury.

Former federal judge Michael Luttig, who advised Pence when he was dealing with Trump’s pressure campaign to get Pence to try to overturn the 2020 election, has an op-ed in The New York Times today: Mike Pence’s Dangerous Gambit.

Former Vice President Mike Pence recently announced he would challenge Special Counsel Jack Smith’s subpoena for him to appear before a grand jury in Washington as part of the investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the related Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Mr. Pence claimed that “the Biden D.O.J. subpoena” was “unconstitutional” and “unprecedented.” He added, “For me, this is a moment where you have to decide where you stand, and I stand on the Constitution of the United States.” Mr. Pence vowed to take his fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

A politician should be careful what he wishes for — no more so than when he’s a possible presidential candidate who would have the Supreme Court decide a constitutional case that could undermine his viability in an upcoming campaign.

Felix Vallotton, Laziness

Felix Vallotton, Laziness

The former vice president should not want the embarrassing spectacle of the Supreme Court compelling him to appear before a grand jury in Washington just when he’s starting his campaign for the presidency; recall the unanimous Supreme Court ruling that ordered Richard Nixon to turn over the fatally damning Oval Office tapes. That has to be an uncomfortable prospect for Mr. Pence, not to mention a potentially damaging one for a man who — at least as of today — is considered by many of us across the political spectrum to be a profile in courage for his refusal to join in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election in the face of Donald Trump’s demands. And to be clear, Mr. Pence’s decision to brand the Department of Justice’s perfectly legitimate subpoena as unconstitutional is a far cry from the constitutionally hallowed ground he stood on Jan. 6.

Injecting campaign-style politics into the criminal investigatory process with his rhetorical characterization of Mr. Smith’s subpoena as a “Biden D.O.J. subpoena,” Mr. Pence is trying to score points with voters who want to see President Biden unseated in 2024. Well enough. That’s what politicians do. But Jack Smith’s subpoena was neither politically motivated nor designed to strengthen President Biden’s political hand in 2024. Thus the jarring dissonance between the subpoena and Mr. Pence’s characterization of it. It is Mr. Pence who has chosen to politicize the subpoena, not the D.O.J.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Another take on this issue from Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: Pence has no right to dodge a subpoena.

Former vice president Mike Pence is bent on demonstrating to the MAGA base that he is not about to help prosecute would-be coup instigator Donald Trump, the very person who seemed to delight in egging on the mob that called for Pence’s head. To that end, Pence has threatened to refuse to appear in response to the grand jury subpoena special counsel Jack Smith has issued.

Rather than deploy the executive-privilege defense (almost certainly a loser since President Biden has waived it; in any case, United States v. Nixon stands for the proposition that executive privilege generally gives way in a criminal prosecution), Pence has cited the Constitution’s “speech and debate” clause. This passage from Article I protects lawmakers from arrest on the floor of Congress for things said there.

A close examination of Pence’s claim shows that the defense, even if valid in some respects, does not protect him from testifying about issues relating to the Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt.

The argument that the vice president is an officer of Congress, and hence covered by the clause, is reasonable. Andy Wright and Ryan Goodman writing at Just Security explain: “The Speech or Debate Clause is designed as a safeguard against politically motivated civil litigation or criminal prosecutions that can chill congressional debate or intimidate legislators.” Therefore, they conclude, “It makes sense that the protections should extend to a Vice President when acting as President of the Senate or in other legislative branch capacity.” The Justice Department already conceded as much in multiple civil suits brought against the vice president (both Pence and then-vice president Joe Biden).

Yet, there is a compelling argument that Pence’s use of the speech and debate clause is inconsistent with the clause’s purpose, which is to insulate members of Congress from pressure from the executive. It might also be argued (as retired judge Michael Luttig has) that Pence’s role on Jan. 6 was purely ceremonial, not legislative, and thus the speech and debate clause does not apply. After all, Pence himself argued that day that he had no legislative authority to nullify the electoral votes.

These points might be subjects of novel litigation. But the government need not dispute the clause’s relevance because a good deal of what Smith wants to investigate is beyond any legislative function, and hence outside the scope of the clause.

Read more at the WaPo.

That’s all I have for you today. What are your thoughts on all this? What other stories are you following?